Everything - Chapter 23
The week before Pentecost Jesus appeared to them again, although he stayed with them only briefly. After a private meeting with his mother and Mary Magdalene, he asked the eleven to follow him to Bethany. The twelve left together, but only the eleven returned two days later.
"Where is Jesus?" Clopas asked when they returned and shared what had happened and what Jesus had told them. Peter raised his hand to quiet the group.
"While enjoying a meal with him, Jesus told us," 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,'"1 Peter said.
"We asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?' But he replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,'"2 Then looking at the other ten disciples Peter continued. "A glowing cloud slowly started to surround Jesus as he raised his arms and began to be lifted into the sky until we could no longer see him."
Everyone sat in silence, trying to understand what Peter had just shared with them and what it all meant. It was a young child sitting next to his mother who asked the question on everyone's mind.
"Is Jesus coming back?" Peter started to answer and then paused a moment to smile at the little boy before him.
"We were wondering the same thing when two men dressed in white suddenly appeared beside us saying, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'3 Then they left, and we returned home."
There was a long silence as everyone tried to understand the meaning of the two men in white and what Jesus had told them.
"What do we do now?" someone asked. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing.
"We wait for the Holy Spirit to come with power, like Jesus promised," Peter ended. Everyone sat silently, gradually accepting the response. There was something bothering Addi, but he could not put a finger on it.
As Pentecost approached, there was a growing nervousness and excitement within their group. As increasingly more people filed into the estate before sunrise that morning, Addi counted over a hundred and twenty disciples sitting in the garden, waiting to be given direction. Food and drink were passed around to any who had not eaten. Each person found a place to sit as they listened to Peter and the other eleven standing together, addressing the disciples. They announced that Matthias had been selected to take Judas' position since he had been with them since John's baptism until the time Jesus was taken into heaven.4
As Peter stepped forward to explain their reasoning, what started as a gentle breeze, quickly turned into a violent wind that began to circle the house and rise high into the heavens above. In the middle of the blowing wind, there seemed to be tongues of fire that came out of the wind and settled around each of the twelve standing before them. Initially, Addi thought the twelve would be burned up and taken up into heaven; but instead, they stood calmly looking at each other in amazement.5
The wind and fire continued for some time and as Addi looked into the sky, he could see a cloud of dust rising above the house. Despite the wind, he was able to walk to the gate of the garden. Looking out, he saw people on their way to the temple for Pentecost stopping or coming back to see what was happening and were gathering in the street in increasing numbers. As he stood there, suddenly the twelve walked past him, opened the gate, and stepped out into the street to address the gathering crowd.
Although the cloud of dust and debris remained above them, the wind had died down enough for them to see the fire that had surrounded them slowly fading away. Addi could see the fear on the faces of all those who had gathered. Jews from every nation under heaven were waiting and watching what was unfolding before them.6
Peter and the others stepped forward in an attempt to calm the crowds that had gathered outside, explaining this was from God and not to be afraid. More and more pushed their way forward to see, each requiring Peter and the other eleven to explain what was happening. However, with each explanation, the crowd seemed to be growing more agitated. Finally, a visiting priest stepped forward in his elegant robes and hat and raised his arms to quite the crowd. Once it was quiet enough to speak, he turned to face the crowd.
"Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?" he yelled the question to the crowd.
"Yes, I know them, they are from Galilee," one replied.
"Then how is it that each of us hears them in our own native language?" he asked and there was a mumble from the crowd. "Do you understand him?" he asked one woman who was from Phrygia, who nodded. "You are from Cyrene; do you understand what they are saying?" he asked a man who nodded. Twice more he asked someone from another country if he or she understood what Peter was saying, and each time he or she would nod that they did.
"We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" the priest shouted.
"What does this mean?" a voice from the crowd asked.
"They have had too much wine," a voice snarled from the back and others began to laugh and agree with them.7
Just as it seemed things were growing out of control, Peter stepped forward from the eleven and raised his voice.
“Fellow Jews, and all of you who live in Jerusalem let me explain this to you. Listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“Fellow Israelite's, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge, and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
“Fellow Israelite's, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”8
Peter's words echoed across the street and through the crowds of people. At first, Addi did not know how the people would respond to the challenge and accusation that they as a people, who had been waiting and praying for the Messiah to come for thousands of years, had instead, crucified their savior.
Despite the miraculous, powerful wind and the fire, and speaking in tongues, Addi expected the people to have the same rebellious spirit that they had always had toward God and his word. Instead, they were cut to the heart by Peter's words and stepped forward on faith and belief.
“Brothers, what shall we do?” one man asked Peter and the others standing by him.
"What is it that God wants from us?" another called out.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”9
Peter spent the next hour referencing scripture, explaining, and answering the many questions being asked from those present. As Peter pleaded and warned the people to "save yourselves from this corrupt generation," Addi realized the one thing he had not done in obedience to Jesus. He stepped forward in front of the crowd and before Peter and the eleven.
"I want to be baptized," Addi said and Peter looked at Addi and nodded. Addi pointed to the front gate of the estate. "We have a deep pool of water inside the estate, can we use that?" Addi asked. Peter again nodded and turned to the crowd.
"It is a choice and decision you must make on your own. If you wish to accept this message from God, then follow this young man through these gates and we will baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," Peter ended, putting his hand on Addi's shoulder and walking with him toward the gates.
As they passed through the gates and approached the pool, Addi thought again of his mother resting in the water and his father standing nearby. They were both laughing as he approached it. He felt confident for the first time in his life that he would see his mother and father again when he walked through the promised gates of gold that awaited him in heaven. Watching across from him were Eliana, Cleopas, Lycus and all his other brothers and sisters. He smiled at the joy of them being in his life.
He had asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus had told him to sell everything and follow him. Eventually, he listened and obeyed. Everything he thought he would lose when he finally walked away from it, was now either staring at him from across the pool, or was waiting safely and securely in heaven for him. He took a deep breath as Peter guided him under the water and felt the cool water flow over him. As he came out of the water, he heard the laugh of the woman he knew would be his wife and the mother of their children, as she jumped into the water and embraced him.
As the day progressed, three thousand more accepted Peter's message and were baptized and added to their number that day. Addi now understood more clearly than ever it was never a physical kingdom that Jesus desired for his people, but an eternal kingdom of the heart that could never be destroyed or pass away. As he held Eliana in his arms and looked at his growing family around him, Addi knew that it had been worth Everything he had to find it.
1 Acts 1:4-5
2 Acts 1:6-8
3 Acts 1:10-11
4 Acts 1:12-26
5 Acts 2:1-4
6 Acts 2:5
7 Acts 2:6-13
8 Acts 2:14-36
9 Acts 2:37-41
This was not the End,
but the Beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
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